Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

Could we be about to witness major growth in modular housing?

Build it and they will come, or so they say.

And if you don’t build it, then the Government will miss out on its own construction targets.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was keen to see Britain “Build Back Better” not so long ago and as well as major infrastructure projects he set his sights firmly on a significant growth in housebuilding as a cornerstone of that plan.

We are still waiting to see whether current PM Liz Truss picks up this particular political baton – along with many other on-going and important Government initiatives it has been overshadowed somewhat by the aftermath of the “mini-budget”.

But with housebuilding and so-called “levelling up” such key elements of the Government’s strategy under Mr Johnson, it would seem hopeful that some form of continuity is put in place by Mrs Truss’ new-look Cabinet.

It is now a waiting game to see what the industry can expect from the new Government.

Paul Groves Paul Groves Editor of Specification magazine

Modern methods to the fore

Indeed, many believe that in order for the Government building targets to be met then Modern Methods of Construction need to come to the fore and in particular modular and offsite production needs to be ramped up.

In recent research published by Make UK Modular, a trade body for modular housing manufacturers, it was claimed that while innovation has left the construction industry largely untouched till now, precision engineered homes, factory-built in areas where employment is required and delivered to regions of the UK where housing is scarce, are set to revolutionise the sector and help solve Britain’s growing housing crisis.

As the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy prices begin to bite, it is the efficiency of modular schemes and the savings that homeowners could potential recoup that are becoming major selling points for the offsite route.

Consistent and sustainable standards

The research- ‘Greener, Better, Faster: Modular's Role in Solving the Housing Crisis’ – shows that factory engineering means modular homes can be built to consistently high sustainability standards, delivering savings of 55% on energy consumption compared to the average UK home and cost 32% less to heat than a traditional new build.

This translates to savings of up to £800 a year for a three bedroomed family home, and energy reduction rises to 60% for single or two person households living in smaller properties.

Record spending by modular construction companies in Research and Development accounts for 30% of all R&D in across the whole construction sector. This investment is set to deliver even more energy efficient homes in the coming months at a time households are struggling with increasing bills.

Installed in a day

Modular manufacturers already produce 3,300 homes a year, one in 60 of all new houses in the UK and by 2025, and with the right support, this could grow to over 20,000 new modular buildings each year.

Not only are these modern precision-engineered homes quicker to build than traditional homes, but with no snagging or defects it is possible for a single crane to install a house perfectly in just one day.

Despite the pandemic, modular has doubled its delivery of new homes since 2017 with a contracted pipeline of 8,000 homes already in place.

Make Modular UK is urging Government to: dedicate 20% of their programme of affordable housing provision to modular housing which has already shown it can deliver new homes fast; offer fast-track planning, prioritising modular and green homes in land allocation; raise energy efficiency standards for new housing, where modular already meets a higher criteria than traditional building, reduce stamp duty based on energy efficiency and net zero performance and require all for sale and to let homes to provide accurate date on energy bills

Steve Cole, Director of Make UK Modular, said: “There is a housing success story in this country, and it is modular. This report shows definitively that modular is now a significant player in the UK housing market. Government must capitalise on this as opportunities to transform our broken housing market into the most sophisticated in the world do not come around every day.

“Government must accelerate modular delivery, building on the investment made and the jobs created, by removing the remaining barriers holding the industry back.”

Increasing sustainability

Wayne Oakes, a director at the sustainable engineering consultancy, Dice, also believes a greener modular building approach can increase sustainability, reduce construction time and begin to tackle the huge volumes of waste generated by the construction industry. 

He agrees that the energy efficiency nature of modular homes will become increasingly important to homeowners and the wider industry.

“Modular homes are designed to be energy efficient and very efficient to manufacture,” he explained. “They’re created off site - where waste can be kept to a minimum - and different elements of a build can all be happening at the same time. 

“Modular projects and units do differ from the traditional, standard residential units. They have specific requirements in terms of their sub-structures and external works. This is particularly the case in sites with gradients and water management requirements. 

“We’ve realised technology’s potential and are driving the change.  It’s our duty to think creatively to develop new, more sustainable ways of construction and ultimately living.”

There are also benefit to the retrofit market, with major refurbishment and renovation projects benefitting from the efficiencies provided by offsite production.

It is now a waiting game to see what the industry can expect from the new Government and the priorities the new PM will place on housebuilding, construction in general and levelling up.

Paul Groves is editor of Specification magazine